Live Savages in San Francisco

Patrick Redford was originally cast in the re-make of The Great Gatsby remake. It’s impossible to suss out motives from distance. Authenticity is a slippery virtue. But Savages are a refreshing...
By    April 22, 2013

Patrick Redford was originally cast in the re-make of The Great Gatsby remake.

It’s impossible to suss out motives from distance. Authenticity is a slippery virtue. But Savages are a refreshing affront to the trend of “indie” musicians seeking a moving target of cool–which is ironic that they’re one of the most hyped new bands of the last few years

We’re so many years deep into the hype abyss that expectations automatically accompany the worry that you’ve seen this movie before. You know, the “don’t get your hopes up idiot” neurosis that comes from acutely remembering the Black Kids. With that in the back of my mind, I went to see Savages in San Francisco. From the jump, there is something vicious about the band. Lead singer Jehnny Beth is kinetic. She slinks and slouches her way through thick bass lines. She thrashes. Her voice is smooth when she wants it to be and piercing and percussive when the situation calls. In between songs, she looked up at the room lights or told us all something unsettling. The band was technically sound and seemed determined to pound us into the ground as precisely and loudly as possible. If the swirling chaos of ‘Husbands’ had continued for another minute, I would have been finished.

Savages exude a swagger that feels earned. There were signs all around the bar that loudly told you not to take photographs– this is a goddamn rock show not brunch. Of course, this didn’t stop dude next to me from filming the first three songs. Their conviction in their singularity is justified and it wasrefreshing to see a band determined to fucking do something, to make the audience feel things and not simply do it just to do it. Despite the darkness and the complete post-punk fuck-all of the band, the sound and aesthetic felt complete, not a mess of unsynthesized influences. For such a young band, it was impressive. And this sense of identity lended itself well to the live format.

Compared with the studio tracks I’ve heard, there’s a destructive incorporeal level of energy in the live songs. “Husbands” was the show closer. Easily their most bombastic song, it oscillated between anxious, bass-driven emotional couplets and pounding, all out guitar assault. With any band whose reputation is built on the back of awesome live shows, there are always concerns over how the material will translate to an album. How will they make a lasting statement? This won’t a problem for Savages, in part because they have a clear, strong ethos that will mean something to people. Hell, the cover for their debut album Silence Yourself has a manifesto printed right on the front. They are all about reduction, a conscious effort to pull away from mediocre mainstream garbage. Sure, that’s been said a million times over, but it’s timely and refreshing and I’m young/idealistic enough to believe this will endear them to a larger audience. History shows that there is true staying power if a band is passionate and really good at making music. Savages are.

There’s also their embrace of feminism. The lyrics to most songs, notably “Husbands” and “She Will”, deal with breaking out of the reductive sexual hold of the patriarchy. The lyrics that communicate this message mirror the music that envelops them. During the pre-thrashing, anxious parts of “Husbands”, Beth sings “his presence made me feel elated/…it’s the final hour of myself/…I wanna get rid of it.” Be who you are and not what others say you should be. Don’t let sexual politics muddle your identity. Don’t fucking settle for a minute. Fair enough.

‘Savages’ probably seems like an ironic name for a well-coiffed all-female band, but their message is confrontational enough to make it ring true. It’s music that’s punk enough to rock out to and post-punk enough to dance to. Believe the hype.


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